Someone’s reading my emails

I am doing a presentation on Tuesday next week and wrote the following note to the coordinator of the seminar:

This is the paper I will speak to which is an update on my previously published paper. I cannot believe how much things have evolved from then. I will also do a set of overheads which will help me keep track of where I am and might even be of use to those who come to listen.

Attached to it was my paper named nowhere other than in the paper itself:

The Use of Multiple Choice Questions with Explanations for Economic Assessment

This was the same title for a paper I had written in 2008 and put up on an academic website along with an abstract. But for the past five years the paper had simply been a paper that could be accessed but no one had. And then, a few hours after sending my note off to the coordinator of the seminar I received the following email:

Hi Professor Kates,

Hope you are doing well.

I would like to introduce myself as [redacted], one of the fastest growing research acceleration firm. We have been working with academicians from 35 of the top 100 universities across the globe including researchers from Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, MIT, NUS, and INSEAD.

We help researchers with Data Harvesting, Analytics, Visualization and Technology Implementation. As an organization, our primary focus is to increase research productivity, reduce research costs, and enable researchers focus on the most important facets of their research. You can read more about us here .

As we read through the abstract of research paper on The Use of Multiple Choice Questions with Explanations for Economic Assessment, we thought it would be a good idea to set up some time for a short call and explore how we can help you accelerate your research. Let me know a good time and we can schedule a call accordingly. I look foward to hearing from you.


I do not believe in coincidences, specially not one in a million shots like this would have been. This was, moreover, not just someone who had read my email but had been able to open my attachment, read its title and presumably anything else they chose to read, and then send me a follow up email, all on the same day.

It’s not just the NSA and it’s not just our foreign enemies. My google account information is not just being shared but my attachments can be opened by total strangers. And the more I think about it, the more it burns me up.

UPDATE: I have just noticed that there was the following next to the email address of the sender which suggests some suspicion by gmail about the way this note was generated:


Clicking on “via” led to this:

Why am I seeing extra information next to the sender’s name?

Gmail believes that by adding more information about the origin of a message, you can be better informed about who sent the message and can avoid confusion. For example, if someone fakes a message from a sender that you trust, like your bank, you can use this information to see that the message is not really from your trusted sender. The information that we use to display this information is included in the message headers but these headers can be hard to understand. Gmail analyzes this information and displays it in a simple to read format.

Why am I seeing an email address next to the sender’s name?

If the sender’s full email address is displayed, then Gmail thinks that you have not communicated with this sender in the past. If the email address is quite long, we’ll show you a shortened version.

Once Gmail concludes that you communicate with this sender (for example, if you reply to emails from this sender, or if you add this sender to your address book) we’ll stop displaying their address next to their name.

Why am I seeing “via” followed by a domain name next to the sender’s name?

Gmail detected that the email was sent via another mail service. This means that the sender may be using a third-party email service to generate this message. For example, the message may have been sent through a social networking site which offers an email service or sent through a mailing list that you’re subscribed to.

Gmail displays this information because many of the services that send emails on behalf of others don’t verify that the name that the sender gives matches that email address. We want to protect you against misleading messages from people pretending to be someone you know.

How can I remove the extra information next to the sender’s name?

Once Gmail concludes that you communicate with this sender (for example, if you replied to emails from this sender, or if you add this sender to your address book) we’ll stop displaying the full email address.

However, if the sender sends the email through a third-party service or a mailing list we may continue to show ‘via’ followed by the service that sent the message.

I’m a sender and I don’t want my recipients to see the “via” link. What can I do?

Gmail checks whether emails are correctly authenticated. If your messages are sent by a bulk mailing vendor or by third-party affiliates, please publish an SPF record that includes the IPs of the vendor or affiliates which send your messages and sign your messages with a DKIM signature that is associated with your domain.